Last month, I temporarily slipped back into my teenage self.
Has this ever happened to you? One minute I was a cool twenty-something, a European traveler, sipping red wine in Rome. Cut to a mere five days later and suddenly I’m in the backseat of my parents’ car, using my blaring headphones to dodge their questions while simultaneously trying to make my deep sighs of discontent as conspicuous as possible.
That’s the power of family vacations. They can tear down six years of progress, six years of living in separate states, of convincing yourself that hey, your parents aren’t that weird. It only took me six days to realize that, um, yeah, they are.
Our vacation destination – Scotland – may have accelerated this process. It’s probably not the best idea to set a family vacation in a country where the main form of entertainment is hanging out in bars. Picture it: my dad putting Marvin Gaye on the juke box. My mom sticking her rear end in the fire while loudly complaining that her “tushy is cold.” My little brother ordering a third scotch at 3 p.m. All of the family feud criterion were slowly but surely aligning.
Truth be told, I got myself into this mess completely willingly. When my parents said they were going to visit my youngest brother during his study-abroad program in Edinburgh, I immediately jumped on board. (A free subsidized flight across the Atlantic? Yes, please.) When a shift in Benjamin’s schedule (read: his desire to go rock climbing even when his family was journeying across the ocean to see him) mandated that we spend an extra day in the Scottish countryside, I went along with it.
But the truth was that I had been tricked. I’m not sure exactly what I expected, but they definitely had not adequately prepared me for our time in the Highlands. The weather was cold and dreary, the clientele at our 19th century country-home-turned-hotel as ancient as the architecture. No wonder I reverted back to my seventh-grade self…my parents had sneakily taken me to the Vermont (setting of much of my adolescent angst) of Scotland.
The massive blow-up inevitably occurred on the fifth day, during a hike next to some glen or loch (note: everything in the Highlands is next to some glen or loch.)
My mom refused to cross a small stream, I implored my dad to “just leave her there” (poor choice of words) and she just completely lost it. I either inadvertently tapped into some old memory of my dad threatening to leave her on a ski slope in Switzerland during another memorable family vaca or hit some other menopausal nerve. Either way, she made the next forty-eight hours miserable for both of us. By the end of the trip, I found myself contemplating just how tasteless it would be to order an Irish car bomb in Scotland. With lunch.
As miserable as much of the trip was, I’m glad I went. If nothing else, it saved me from the pain of an even longer and potentially more embarrassing vacation in April. Have I mentioned that my other brother is living in Ecuador? Imagine the mortification my parents could inflict in a non-English speaking country. I think I’ll be taking on that excursion solo.